• Vitaly Novok

Compliance Deadlines for Defined Contribution Plans: Year-End Reporting

For many employees, there is no better time than the end of the year. The year is almost over, hassle is gone, and diligence gives way to Holiday festivities. However, for plan sponsors, the situation is the exact opposite; it is one of the busiest times of year. They need to reflect on what has been done and plan for next year. In addition to that, plan sponsors need to comply with numerous regulations, provide participants with different notices, and implement all necessary amendments.

In this post I would like to outline the important tasks that should be on a retirement plan sponsor’s “to-do” list. Each of these tasks need to be addressed by the end of year. Missing these deadlines may result in severe negative consequences that you would want to avoid at any cost.

Retirement Plan Sponsor’s To-Do List

December 1st, 2016

  1. 401(k) Plan Safe Harbor Notice. Plan sponsors who sponsor a safe harbor 401(k) plan need to distribute a notice describing matching or nonelective contributions that the firm will make to the plan in 2017.

  2. Automatic contribution arrangement (ACA) or automatic enrollment notice. If your plan allows for automatic enrollment of an eligible employee in the plan, distribute a notice describing that the employee’s paycheck will be reduced by a certain percentage. This will be contributed towards the plan unless the employee affirmatively elects otherwise.

  3. Eligible automatic contribution arrangement (EACA) notice. If your plan uniformly contributes a default percentage of employees' wage to all participants, distribute a notice to all participants outlining that their paycheck will be reduced by a default percentage which will be contributed to the plan.

  4. Qualified automatic contribution arrangement (QACA) notice. If your 401(k) plan provides an ACA with special safe harbor provisions that exempt the plan from an annual actual deferral percentage (ADP), and actual contribution percentage (ACP) nondiscrimination testing, distribute a notice and describe the contribution process to all plan participants.

  5. Qualified default investment alternative (QDIA) notice. If your plan allows automatic investing in a QDIA, distribute a notice describing the QDIAs.

  6. Annual Fee Disclosures under ERISA Section 404a-5. Both plan and investment disclosures must be distributed to plan participants at least once in any 14-month period.

December 15th, 2016


  1. Summary Annual Report (SAR). Only distribute a SAR to participants if your 2015 form 5500 was filed by the extension of October 17, 2016.


December 31st, 2016

  1. Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Issue annual RMD checks and make sure that your TPA/recordkeeper has paid them.

  2. 2015 ADP/ACP Failures. If you failed your 2015 ADP/ACP nondiscrimination testing, make sure to correct them before December 31, 2016 and report the 10% excise tax on form 5330.

  3. Make Plan Amendments. If necessary, make sure to adopt any discretionary plan changes that were made during the plan year that will come into effect in 2017.

  4. Convert Existing 401(k) plan to Safe Harbor, or vice versa. If you want to change the status of your existing 401(k) plan, make sure to do that before this deadline.


Remember, it's your responsibility as a plan sponsor to meet all compliance deadlines and avoid violations.

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